Fr Giuseppe Scattolin MCCJ

In chapter eight of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis touches on a very important point of universal siblinghood: religions. In human history, religions have played a very important role in the growth of the Divine in the human, up to the fullness of Humanity.

He notes first of all that without a clear reference to the ultimate foundation of humanity, to its transcendent dimension, God the Father whom Jesus revealed to us, it is not possible to give a solid basis to human fraternity and sorority. Humanity without such a foundation falls into a total relativism, in which everything can be put in the place of God, and everything remains at the mercy of the blind force of destiny, of fate. In human history we have seen how many abominable brutalities have been committed in the name of human-made idols. And this is particularly true of modern atheistic ideologies. The urgent task for all religions is now to awaken the spiritual forces inherent in every human being, forces that can regenerate him to the fundamental dimensions of humanity, namely those of mercy and love, truth and justice, and peace. It is not just a matter of healing the bodies, but above all of educating the souls. Religion must be like a bridge between Heaven and Earth, the Transcendent and the immanent, Spirit and matter, a bridge by which God enters the human and the human is taken up into the Divine. This, as we know, is the heart of Christian belief, the source of its identity. This does not consist in a lot of cultural oddities that are fashionable these days, but in a descent into the depths of the human spirit, where only God dwells, and in a transcendent marriage creates the true unity of the Spirit. Christian unity is a pressing requirement of being a Christian. To be Christian is not to be content with one’s own umbilical, tribal identity… To be Christian is to be bearers, builders, agents of universal identity, a necessary premise for an authentic universal siblinghood. To be Christian means to have discovered the universal siblinghood that is rooted in the universal fatherhood of God who is above all a universal Father who loves all his creatures, and who wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4). Here, then, the two commandments of love, love God and love your neighbour, are united in a universal harmony that starts from the depths of God and fills everything He has created, and creatures become images, reflections, bearers of that love.

To this end, all violence must be rejected, shunned. The first manifestation of rebellion against God was the fratricide of Cain who no longer recognised his brother and killed him to take his privilege. The assertion that religions do not incite to war must somehow be complemented by comparing it with their actual history. Real history shows that in reality all religions have participated in the historical wars of peoples. In many cases they have also been the inspirational sources of such historical endeavours. What is needed now is for every religion and every ideology to acknowledge and confess the historical responsibility for its own violence, to condemn it and repent for it. We cannot now enter into a serious dialogue with other religions unless we first purify our own historical memory by acknowledging our own historical violence, confessing it, condemning it and rejecting it, as Pope John Paul II did with the Catholic Church in 2000, the year of the Jubilee. This was truly a prophetic gesture to overcome many ambiguous silences.

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